Rammellzee

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In ‘Gothic Futurism,’ Hundreds of Rammellzee’s Works Populate a Mythic, Intergalactic Universe

December 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

A detail photo of an elaborate warrior costume of found objects

All images installation view, Rammellzee: Gothic Futurism, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, (2022-2023), by Josh White, courtesy of the gallery

At Jeffrey Deitch in Los Angeles, dozens of spacecraft constructed from skateboards, salvaged plastics, and scrap materials descend from the ceiling in a seeming rescue mission. Awash in blue light, the vehicles hover above the galleries filled with assemblages in a similar vein, from small otherworldly troopers to life-sized characters elaborately outfitted with headdresses of fur and spray-painted crowns.

The immersive, post-apocalyptic collection unveils the idiosyncratic workings of the late artist Rammellzee, whose fantastic creations rose to cult status in the 1980s alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat (previously) and Keith Haring (previously). Rammellzee started tagging along the route of New York City’s A train and continually espoused the subversive powers of graffiti and writing as his career ventured into fine art, music, performance, and philosophy. “The letter is armed to stop all the phony formations, lies, and tricknowlegies placed upon its structure,” the artist once wrote. “You think war is always shooting and beating everybody, but no, we had the letters fight for us.”

 

A photo of spacecraft descending from the gallery ceiling

These ideas found Rammellzee’s philosophy of Gothic Futurismauthor David Tompkins describes this as a manifesto “in which the alphabet revolts against being institutionalized, locked into the system that is magnetized to our fridge doors”—and the exhibition draws its title from this ideology. Spanning decades of the artist’s work, the show is broad and enveloping, transporting viewers into an esoteric, linguistically grounded world with references to metaphysics, medieval history, and philology.

Surrounded by dozens of paintings, Rammellzee’s hefty, extravagant suits, which he often wore when in public and termed Garbage Gods, loom over the space. Some of the intergalactic costumes weigh upwards of 100 pounds, and all reflect the artist’s impulse for armor and fighting against convention. The racers appear to culminate at the elaborate “Gasholeer” piece, for example, which is even complete with a flamethrower.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Gothic Futurism at Jeffrey Deitch through January 14.

 

A photo of four small figurative assemblages in front of a painting

A photo of an elaborate warrior costume of found objects

A photo of an elaborate warrior costume of found objects, with a group of figurative assemblages in the foreground

A photo of multiple elaborate warrior costumes of found objects

A photo of an elaborate warrior costume of found objects with paintings in the background

A photo of an elaborate warrior costume in the background with spacecraft descending in the gallery

A photo of elaborate warrior costumes of found objects with spacecraft overhead and paintings on the back wall

 

 

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